Various Artists - The Podcast Annual 2007, compiled by Gareth Emery
Tue 23rd Oct, 2007 Music Reviewsin
Once upon a time in the dance music world, trance was King. It was a genre that spread its wings far and wide. It was played by large numbers of the world’s most popular DJs and was loved by clubbers across the globe. Its heyday was in the late nineties, but over recent times its popularity in Australia has waned and it mostly survives here in its harder (and in my opinion, its worst) form. Beyond the occasional visit from international talent like Armin van Buuren, Marcus Schultz or Above and Beyond, progressive trance has become virtually extinct in Australian clubs, ignored by DJs and clubbers alike. This is a shame, because trance that exists below 140 beats per minute can often be not only beautiful, intelligent music, but it can also be one hell of a lot of fun to dance to. So when my copy arrived of The Podcast Annual 2007 from rising star Gareth Emery, the enclosed sales pitch sounded promising enough. It stated that although the first disc is a relative downtempo affair, it’s filled with energy. In fact, it sounded so promising that I put it on my iPod within minutes and the very next morning I’m sitting on the train, listening to Gareth Emery’s version of progressive trance.
Gareth eases us into proceedings with a short-lived space swirl before sliding us into the dreamy world of Iman’s We Are U. While the track’s title is one of many liberal applications of the English language found on this album, it is one of the few true progressive house tracks on this compilation. I absolutely love it, and find myself willing Gareth to play more of this sound. But unfortunately for me, Gareth has other ideas as far as the direction of the mix goes, and he immediately raises the tempo by mixing in a true trance number. There certainly doesn’t appear to be much in the way of ‘progression’ occurring, at least not in the track selection, unless of course Gareth’s primary aim is to reach 8,000BPM by the end of the mix. Then, just as I’m starting to suffer panic attacks about being subjected to two hours of an amphetamine-fuelled ‘march of the munchkins’, Gareth mixes in a delicious growling progressive bass line, which underpins a quite beautiful slow trance number that takes me completely and utterly by surprise. Things are not proceeding as I predicted and I’m certainly more than a little intrigued!
Although Gareth has reached what I would call a peaktime progressive speed in record time, he doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to further increase the pace. From the growling bass line of More Gray Than Blue to the beautiful rising build of Gareth’s own track More Than Anything, and beyond to the filthy squelching synths of Latenite Symphony, the middle section of the mix rolls through some luscious landscapes with a perfect fusion of driving progressive space-licked trance. While the music Gareth is playing is far more uptempo than I would expect at this stage of a mix, it’s no faster than most progressive DJs would be playing towards the end of their peak time live sets. Yes it contains far more ‘uplifting’ elements than the music ‘progressive’ DJs would play and Gareth has dispensed with the ‘journey’, but sometimes you just want to forego the journey and get to the fun stuff ASAP! Gareth has certainly achieved that here.
As the minutes tick by, Gareth raises the tempo ever so slightly and the tracks start to take on a darker and more tech-flavoured growl, which adds an interesting flavour to the mix. The build-ups start to become far more pronounced, but Gareth always retains a sense of control. After all, this is the more downtempo disc. There’s plenty of time to lose control on disc 2, which of course is where we find ourselves heading right now…
A quick re-read of the sleeve notes reminds me that the second disc is what trance lovers would see as being ‘peaktime’ music. Well, things certainly start out promisingly. Instead of launching into trance at around 160bpm, which most Australian trance DJs tend to do, Gareth tends to favour a different direction. The first track Always a Fool reminds me very much of Gabriel and Dresden’s classic Tracking Treasure Down. Dark shimmering bass riffs dominate over luscious trance melodies as a gorgeous vocal allows the listener to drift with the music. Superb stuff!
Gareth quickly moves through the gears, dropping in tougher tunes but rather than just dropping faster and faster records with little or no attention to what has come before, he builds upon the idea of bringing in tougher, dirtier versions of the music that he was playing towards the back end of the first mix. This tech-edged version of trance gives the music a far more interesting nature than what I was expecting and manages, in the early stages of the second disc, to keep away from the obvious quick build, peak, hammer, break down and repeat formula that is so common in trance’s most moronic forms.
In a recent interview Gareth was bemused by the fact that he is perpetually billed downunder as GTR, a name he has not used in five years. Well it’s quite possible that this release will go someway to rectifying that situation, as Gareth has included two of his own tracks and done remixes of a further two tracks. One of these is the brilliant Another You, Another Me which quite literally picks you up by the scruff of the neck, throws you at the nearest dance floor and screams “you will dance now” in the scariest, most devilish voice that you have ever heard – pure unadulterated fun!
Gareth is really raising the euphoria at this point with his infectious remix of Dance is Dead, which manages to make me grin in spite of (or possibly because of) the rather idiotic lyrics. For those of you travelling to any of the Gatecrasher events coming up in Sydney and Brisbane over the next two weeks, you might want to know that this style of music is more the flavour that Gareth will be showcasing. A driving, energetic, in-your-face version of trance, tinged with dirty little growls of technological nastiness and occasional twists into the bizarre. You can tell by Gareth’s structuring of his sets, his production work and the fact that he’s willing to try to introduce his audience to other types of trance, that he is a talented artist as well as a first class entertainer.
So, you enjoy trance that is a vehicle for delivering something beyond the bleedingly obvious? You like it with lashings of tech, progressive and electro, I hear you say? Then you’d be well advised to grab yourself a copy of Gareth Emery’s Podcast Annual 2007, because it’s a snapshot of a DJ/producer who’s well on his way to becoming one of the big guns of the international scene.
Planning on catching Gareth Emery at either of the upcoming Gatecrasher events in Sydney or Brisbane? Check him out dropping his Another You, Another Me tune in the below clip.